Bonnies, Nicholson run out of miracles

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 PM ET

Andrew Nicholson and St. Bonaventure’s dream run is over.

Barely.

Nicholson scored 20 points — including a three in the final two minutes to bring the Bonnies back within three — but the No. 14 seed fell to No. 3 Florida State 66-63 in a thriller in Nashville.

St. Bonaventure missed a couple of two-point attempts in the dying seconds after repeatedly closing within three in a ridiculously entertaining final minute.

Coming off of an improbable Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament championship, the Bonnies, behind the conference player of the year, nearly pulled off another miracle in their first tourney appearance since 2000.

Mississauga’s Nicholson flashed his full arsenal early as the Bonnies scored the first seven points of the game.

With the announcers still praising the former Father Goetz star for his being a physics major, Nicholson was hitting from everywhere.

The Bonnies took a 34-28 lead into the half, but it could have been more had Nicholson not picked up two fouls with 12:40 to go in the opening 20. Florida State responded to his departure with an 8-0 run.

Florida State is one of the stingiest defensive squads in the NCAA, but it was St. Bonaventure putting the clamps on. ACC tourney MVP Michael Snaer, FSU’s leading scorer, was held completely off the board, shooting 0-for-7.

But the Seminoles’ defence came alive in the second half. Head coach Leonard Hamilton made sure his charges took the ball out of Nicholson’s hands — letting anybody else beat them basically — which led to a 12-0 run.

Nicholson had little space to operate and his guards refused to pound it inside to him.

He had 22 points, five rebounds and two blocks at the half, but only eight more points and two more rebounds from that point on as the team’s field goal percentage dropped from 46% to 40.4%.

Still, the plucky squad would not go away and fought until the end.

Toronto’s Matthew Wright was scoreless, but picked up three assists for the Bonnies, Nova Scotia’s Chris Johnson scored six points.

Florida State was a heavy favourite, having recently beaten North Carolina and Duke.

They will go on to the next round while Nicholson will go on to the first round of the NBA Draft this June, likely as a first-round pick.

TOUGH DAY FOR TEXAS

Another GTA product’s day also ended badly when Myck Kabongo’s Texas Longhorns could not complete an improbable comeback and fell 65-59 to Cincinnati in Nashville.

The Torontotonian — one of six true freshen on the Longhorns — had a nightmarish day, missing all six of his field goal attempts, though he did have two assists and four steals.

Sixth-seeded Cincinnati got off to a 31-17 lead at the half thanks to the jittery Horns, who started the game 1-for-12 and shot a dismal 16% for the opening 20 minutes.

Texas went an inexcusable 10:18 without a point.

Turnovers were part of the problem early as well as the bad shooting. At one point, Texas missed four shots at the rim in a row — on the same sequence.

Yet, this one wasn’t over. We’ve been hard on Texas head coach Rick Barnes in the past, but he did a good job getting his squad to regroup and turn a laugher into a game.

Behind some deadly shooting from outside and with a four-guard set, the Longhorns stormed back out of the break, hitting five-of-seven from downtown.

After squaring the game with 3:44 remaining, Texas began making poor decisions. J’Covan Brown, who carried the team with 19 points and others started hoisting bad shots, which allowed Yancy Gates and the Bearcats to regain their footing.

Gates had 15 points and 10 rebounds. He was suspended earlier in the season for brawling with Xavier, an incident which completely turned around Cincinnati’s year.

Cincinnati shot 3-16 from three, while Texas went 7-20.

It was another disappointing ending for Barnes and the Horns.

A year ago Texas was a Final Four contender with Kabongo’s friends Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, but fell by a point to Arizona in an extremely controversial game. That sent the Wildcats through to the Sweet 16 and sent Thompson and Joseph to the NBA.

Kabongo likely will wait to join them.

He averaged 9.8 points, 5.3 assists and 1.2 steals as a freshman and has blazing speed, tremendous ball-handling ability and quick hands, but he also shot just 40% from the field and needs to work on his turnovers.

Scouts believe with another year of seasoning, Kabongo can be a lottery pick.

Barnes’ NCAA Tournament coaching record dropped to 20-20.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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